“Mild-mannered Coral Gables?”
Not early Friday morning as Miami Heat fans celebrated the team’s second consecutive NBA championship with firecrackers in the City Beautiful. They also clanged pots and pans in Hialeah and tooted horns into the wee small hours in Kendall.
This was a big one, a quintessential nail-biter as the team had to fight through the entire series to claim the title. The Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, 95-88, at downtown Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, to win its second NBA title and third overall.
Every cazuela in Hialeah took a beating on 49th Street after midnight and vuvuzelas sounded the victory call like a herd of irritated elephants.
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In Hialeah, thousands decked in team colors gathered throughout the night along 49th Street, forming an impromptu drum line armed with spoons, pots and pans. Toddlers cheered from their parents' shoulders. Couples danced to salsa music blaring in a parking lot where a DJ had set up. Vuvuzelas were handed out to add to the noise.
Traffic crawled from the Palmetto Expressway to Red Road as cars started to roll by with people poking through sunroofs and hanging out of windows, dancing to the pulse of the clanging pots.
Resident Christian Rodriguez, 22, said that with a close series that went to the wire, he knew it would be a hard finish.
“This is crazy,” he said. “Two years in a row. They came to play today.”
Lifelong fan Anthony Peña, 18, painted his chest and face red and black for the party. He said he never doubted.
“I knew they had it, bro,” he yelled. “I feel amazing. I just want to want to run up and down these streets, happy as hell.”
And so he did. Families flooded the sidewalks, and local leaders made it out for the festivities.
Hialeah City Councilman Paul Hernandez rushed out to 49th Street amid the hoopla as fast as he could after the game concluded. With pots and pans clanging around him, he smiled wide. “I’m very proud of our traditions and our idiosyncrasies,” he said. “Let me tell you, Bird Road ain’t got nothin; on this.”
Oh, but Bird had. Bird Road cemented its status as a Twitter trender as the makeshift post-game HQ gave way to celebrations in the streets and a resulting mountain of trash at 4 a.m. in the parking lot greeted the morning crew of La Carreta restaurant on Southwest 87th Avenue.
Even Hollywood, as in California, got into the Heat beat as Django Unchained star Samuel L. Jackson shouted his congratulations via Twitter. “CONGRATS YOU HEAT FANS!! Y’all kept me Entertained.”
Some eight hours before tip-off Hialeah had already prepped for a Heat victory by readying West 49 Street for celebrations. Last year, after all, fans, driving and on foot, celebrated the Heat’s NBA championship victory over Oklahoma City Thunder with pots, pans, baking sheets, ladles, spoons and any kind of kitchen utensil that made noise. The Hialeah Police Department kept 49th Street open to vehicular traffic and pedestrian access but controlled the traffic’s flow to combat gridlock. “Cars and people don’t mix well,” Hialeah Police executive assistant Carl Zogby said in a release.
In Miramar, a 14-year-old boy was hit in the neck by a stray bullet fired in celebration post-game while he was inside his home. The bullet flew through a window. The teen underwent surgery at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. A hospital spokesperson would not comment on his condition.
The City of Miami Fire Department said early Friday that authorities had no reports of major problems from the post-game celebrations. There were no gun-related incidents as of 1:30 a.m., about 90 minutes after the game’s end, with most problems centering around boisterous fans who jumped on cars and limousines that were moving slow, if they were moving at all, outside of the arena post-game.
More fans seemed to be celebrating in downtown Miami outside of the arena than the paying fans inside. Of course, getting into the spirit outside the venue is a lot cheaper than paying for a pricey game ticket.
And not everyone was happy. R&B star Drake tried to get into the Heat’s locker room post-game but was shut-out by security, ESPN reported with a video that showed the Canadian rapper was none-too-pleased as others streamed past him. “I am media,” he reportedly told a non-impressed security guard.
Expect more Heat hysteria Monday when the team plans to hold a parade in downtown Miami to celebrate the hard-won victory. It is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Miami Herald news partner CBS4 and Miami Herald staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.